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Congratulations to our history buffs in May: Laura, Kennedey, Milica, and Nicole! They did research into the life of Badia Masabni and investigated how she impacted our dance form. We'll include their research and their sources below so you can learn more about Badia as well! And if you didn't participate this month, join us for the next Who's Who challenge and you might get $5 off your next month of membership to Datura Online!

Find out more about Badia Masabni!

1. Who was Badia Masabni? (Milica) "Badia Masabni (born Wadiha Masabni) was an actress and a dancer. She is one of the most important figures in history of belly dance. She is often cited as the matron or the godmother of modern day belly dance. Badia was the owner of several influential night clubs in Egypt in 1920s. She was also working at theaters and a movie cinema which was part of her nightclub."

2. What did she do to impact our dance? (Laura) "In 1926 she opened her first dance hall “Sala Badia”, often referred to as “Casino Badia” where 'casino' at the time meant a music hall with entertainment provided by actors, singers and musicians. 

Casino Badia was very successful. The performances appealed to the local audience as well as to the many Europeans who lived in Cairo. Madame Masabny – as she was known at the time – added some new elements to the traditional Egyptian-style dance in order to make it more palatable to a foreign audience as well. She was inspired by European classical dance and added more complex arm patterns; she also introduced the use of choreography, whereas until then all performances had been improvised. Another innovation was the bigger dance space, which led to more dynamic choreographies. She called in choreographers from Europe who could merge their classical background (use of space – dynamic movements – variety) with the traditional Egyptian dance heritage. She was the pioneer of modern Raqs Sharqi and Cabaret style; she also encouraged the use of veil and undulations. Thanks to her innovations, traditional Egyptian dance was able to evolve and started to be appreciated by Europeans as well. Her “fusion” approach (merging concepts of European ballet and trendy dances such as Charleston with Oriental dance movements) opened up a whole new range of possibilities which are still today being explored.

After Casino Badia she opened other nightclubs in Giza and Alexandria. Several dancers performed at her casinos who then became famous and influential, such as Tahia Carioca and Samia Gamal."

3. Where was she from and where did she live throughout her life?

(Milica) "Badia was of Levantine origin. She was born in Damascus, to a Lebanese father and a Syrian mother. After Badia was raped at the age of seven, her family emigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina but moved back to Syria when she was a teenager. She couldn't continue her life in Damascus so she ran away to Beirut. After Beirut, Badia moved to Cairo, Egypt which was at a time famous for culture, theater and music. She has also traveled in Europe in search for new talents and shows. She passed away in Lebanon."

4. When did she live? (Laura) "She was born in Damascus in 1892 (or 1894, according to some sources)."

5. Why did her actions impact our dance form? 

(Kennedey) "She is the only belly dancer I have ever heard of, that owned the club the dancers danced in. So she definitely set a standard in business leadership. She also kept the dance movements palatable for a more general audience. Cabaret is a balancing act, and she did it well."

(Nicole) "By all accounts, Badia Masabni (1890s­­-1970s) was a pioneer in the strand of Egyptian dance that has seen its development from a non-theatrical activity into a performance discipline presented on a stage. Various sources suggest that the Damascus-born club owner, performer, choreographer and trainer, who lived out most of her career in Cairo,* established a number of significant innovations to the dance which are now commonly regarded as ‘classic’ elements of Egyptian dance."

Read through Laura, Kennedey, and Milica's answers here: http://daturaonline.com/news/whos-who-badia-masabni

And read through Nicole's blog post on Badia Masabni here: https://nikishithoughts.wordpress.com/2017/05/11/badia-masabni/


"Badia Masabni: The Lady and Her Clubs." Badia Masabni: The Lady and Her Clubs, by Priscilla Adum. Shira. http://www.shira.net/about/badia-lady-and-clubs.htm.

"Badia Masabni: Starmaker, Part 1." Badia Masabni, The Queen of Suffering and Of the Night, Part 1: Queen of Misery, by Tarek Hashem and translated by Priscilla Adum. Shira. http://www.shira.net/about/badiabio01.htm. The original arabic version http://www.aljarida.com/articles/1461904462153116200/

"Historical Belly Dance Influences | On Badia Masabni." Belly Motions by Alexandra Molina. http://bellymotions.com/historical-influences-on-badia-masabni/.

"Badia Masabny." Jalilah Writes about Badia Masabny for the Gilded Serpent. Glided Serpent. http://www.gildedserpent.com/art47/jalilahbadia.html.

"Stars of Dance Spotlight: Badia Masabni." Sequins and Shimmies by Alessandra. http://alessandraraqs.blogspot.rs/2014/10/stars-of-dance-spotlight-badia-masabni.html.

"Bellydance Superstars of the past." Badia Masabni. http://belly-dance.org/badia-masabni.html.

"Badia Masabni." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badia_Masabni.

Claudia Amira. “La Pionera: Badia Masabni”.
HistoryOfBellydance, http://historyofbellydance.blogspot.it/2006/09/la-pionera-badia-masabni.html.

Buonaventura, Wendy. Serpent of the Nile. Saqi, 2010, p. 149-152.

Dils, Ann & Cooper Albright, Ann (ed.). Moving History/Dancing Cultures: A Dance History Reader, Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Hammond, Andrew. ‘The Belly Dance: A Reinvented Arab Groove’. Popular Culture in the Arab World: Arts, Politics and the Media, The American University in Cairo Press, 2007, pp. 187-204.

Rose, April. ‘Casino Badia: History’ (video). Datura Online website, 2016: http://daturaonline.com/casino-badia-history

Said, Edward W. Reflections on Exile and Other Essays. Harvard University Press, 2000, p. 347.

Smith, David. Letters to Strabo. Matador Books, 2017, p. 337.